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You are met upon arrival and taken to your hotel. This afternoon enjoy an orientation tour of the city, including the 6th century Church of St. Sofia, the 4th century St. George Rotunda and the Cathedral of St. Alexander Nevski.
This morning take a scenic drive towards Rila Mountain to visit the most significant monument of the Bulgarian National Revivalperiod, the Rila Monastery. The exquisite colonnades and arches along with the monastery’s rich murals and delicate fretwork are a delight to explore. This Bulgarian treasure houses a vast collection of icons, jewelry and carpets, as well as a library of more than 16,000 books and manuscripts. After lunch, drive back to Sofia, en route stopping to visit Boyana Church, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with perfectly preserved 13th century frescoes.
Depart Sofia this morning, stopping to tour the medieval capital of Bulgaria, Veliko Turnovo, scenically secluded in a valley along the Yantra River. Explore the town, including the Medieval fortress of Tsarevets, the old St. Peter & Paul Church and Samovodene Market with its original craft workshops. Continue on to arrive at the 17th century museum town of Arbanassi. Visit the Nativity Church and its frescoes of scenes from the Bible, and tour the ethnographic house of Konstantsaliev.
On route to Varna, stop in the sacred village of Madara to view the Madara Horseman, a towering figure of a knight over a lion, carved into a 325-foot high cliff. Next, stop to visit Pobiti Kamuni, or The Stone Forest, natural stone pillars arising on a now-barren plain. Arrive at Varna, “the pearl of the Black Sea Coast” in the afternoon. Enjoy a tour of this city founded in the 6th century BC, with its well-preserved remains from the Roman and Byzantine times, as well as art and architecture from the Medieval and Renaissance periods. Visit the 19th century Cathedral of Assumption of the Virgin, an imposing landmark, with finely carved iconostasis, murals and stained glass.
Today enjoy a full day trip to the unique museum town of Nessebar, a UNESCO Heritage site. One of the oldest towns in Europe, you will see evidence of the Thracians, Romans, Slavs and Bulgarians. Known for its treasure trove of churches, visit the Byzantine style Old Bishop’s Residence; St. Stefan’s, with its valuable 12th century murals; and the medieval Christ Pantocrator and Aliturgetos Churches. Enjoy lunch while in Nessebar, and then tonight, dinner in Varna, complete with local wine tasting.
Drive back to Arbanassi, en route visiting Pliska, the Bulgarian capital during 681-893 AD, and Veliki Preslav, the first capital of the Bulgarian Empire and today a national archaeological reserve.
This morning drive to visit the Dryanovo Monastery, then continue on to Etara to explore the Etara Ethnographic Museum, the Assumption Sokolski Monastery famous for it’s stone fountain and the golden domed Shipka Monastery. Continue to Kazanluk and visit the 4th century BC Thracian Tomb, a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site. Relax over lunch in this scenic “Capital of the Valley of the Roses,” before continuing on to Plovdiv, the second largest city in Bulgaria.
Plovdiv holds 24 centuries of history, and a plethora of unique well-preserved treasures. Explore the old town with its cobblestone streets and romantic atmosphere; see the 4th century BC Thracian wall paintings, the ancient Roman amphitheater, and 15th century Ottoman mosques. After lunch, travel outside the city to tour the Bachkovo Monastery, one of the oldest in Bulgaria. Founded in 1030, it hosts rich collections of old icons, jewelry, coins, manuscripts and countless paintings that adorn almost every wall.
This morning drive to Starosel, and tour Chetinyova Hill, Thracian sanctuaries built in the 5th century BC. Enjoy lunch in town then take a tour of the new Starosel Wine Complex with some local wine tasting. Arrive in Sofia in the afternoon, and tonight, enjoy dinner with lively folkloric entertainment.
Today you are taken to the airport for your flight home or on to your next destination.